Facebook Canvas: an honest look

When Facebook introduced Canvas into its stable of advertisement options this year, it generated a positive reaction from the public. Major companies like Gucci, McDonalds and L’Occitane made use of the platform, and many marketing and digital advertising blogs raved about the potential benefits of this mobile-only ad.

The upside seemed excellent with Canvas: it enabled marketers to self-make advertisements using the simple design tool, it was visually attractive, and the conceivable reach for businesses targeting users on their tablets and mobiles was extensive.

Sounds amazing in theory, but when it comes to practical usage, this is what we found:

Interface needs to be friendlier
The interface of the tool looks easy to use. The components of Canvas are simple building blocks: picture, text block, carousel (photo gallery), video, button, header. However, the creation and design process is a lot harder to work through than claimed to be. As Canvas is such a new platform, graphic designers are unfamiliar with it, and with the Facebook quirks specific to it.

Limited font choice
Your corporate font may not be available for the text block or header. The self-serve ad builder only offered five font types for Canvas.

Format not standardised across platforms
Text blocks may look different on desktop compared to on mobile. Some phone models showed formatting different to what was designed in the builder. This bug made sharing drafts with clients quite awkward.

Colour inconsistencies
If you want the text block to look as if it flows on from the graphic, you’ll need to make sure that the background of the graphic is the exact same block colour as the text block. The design for the text blocks and the button is very low-grade, so if your visuals are amazing, using a text block or a button alongside is rather jarring.

Cover photo hassle
A cover photo needs to be created for the Facebook desktop post. While Canvas is aimed at mobile users, a post accompanying the Canvas will appear on the desktop (if clicked, it will direct users to look at their phones or tablets).  Facebook Canvas will extract a graphic from the first frame of the Canvas. However, the details you want seen may not be present or centered in their choice, so you may need to create another visual.

Text limit on ads
When you have a fair amount of information to share, you would be inclined to include text in the images. Doing so means you’ll face the 20% text limit that Facebook imposes on its advertisements. This was probably the hardest part of the whole process. More on this issue in a separate post (Part 2) later.

No solutions – yet
Clearly, the DIY aspect of Facebook Canvas is problematic. When looking for solutions online, it was discovered that this particular component is not dealt with in reviews of Facebook Canvas.

There is a disconnect between online reviews of Facebook Canvas, and the practicality of the platform. It appears that online reviews of the tool may be based upon press releases rather than usage. One blogger only noted in the comments of her review, that she hadn’t used it yet, and would later publish a review once she does (six months later, nothing).

This is a great pity as bugs in this tool, and the major hurdle of the text limit, makes a potentially great platform so unappealing to use.

Comments (2)

  • Tony Lee
    30 November 2016 at 6:11 pm Reply

    Someone should write to Facebook to highlight this.

    • TitienAuthor
      19 January 2017 at 4:17 pm Reply

      Thanks for your suggestion, Tony. We have written to them and will share if we get a response!

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